Watertown’s Veterans Day Ceremony drew a crowd of regulars to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1105 Sunday, but Joe Caouette, past commander of the VFW, remembers when the numbers were much larger.
During the ceremony, retired Watertown Veterans Agent Bob Erickson gave the keynote speech, and said that people should thank the veterans in their lives.
“If I see a trooper or a veteran in uniform when I’m driving I call over to them and thank them for their service,” Erickson said.
He encouraged others to do the same, and not just on Veterans Day, all year long.
“Ask them about their service,” Erickson said. “It is so meaningful for them.”
The VFW and other veterans groups provide a place for vets to gather and socialize. Caouette, a Korean War veteran, first served as VFW commander in the early 1970s, and the grop had about 400 members then. Now, the number is around 100.
“It’s tough to get young people to come out,” Caouette said. “In some areas, young people are taking over (veterans’ organizations) and we have a few here.”
One of the younger generation involved in the VFW is the current commander, Derek Mayerhofer, who served eight years in the Navy, including a tour of Iraq in 2008.
He looks for ways to get more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to come into the VFW.
“We have open houses, and every Sunday we have a barbeque with the NFL football,” Mayerhofer said.
The time might not be right for some of the younger servicemen and women, Mayerhofer said.
“Some guys might not be ready, and are still dealing with their wounds,” Mayerhofer said. “It took me about a year until I got involved. I would hate to see places like this disappear. I don’t want the tradition to go away.”